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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Zombieland: Double Tap

“The Addams Family” and “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

It’s a sign of good filmmaking when a movie establishes its premise its tone within the first few scenes. This is why so many blockbusters have big, grab your attention scenes  in the opening moments. Director Ruben Fleischer does all of that one better with the opening of “Zombieland: Double Tap.” He doesn’t wait until the opening scene to establish premise and tone, he does so in the opening logo sequence. All we need is to see the woman with the torch on the Columbia Pictures logo spring to life and fight off zombies and we know exactly what we’re in for here.

For those who arrive late and miss that bit of hilarious frivolity, we soon see our intrepid group of zombie apocalypse survivors, each named after where they’re from—Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin)—battle zombies on the lawn of the White House. Stylish slow motion? Check. Thrashy Metallica song (this time it’s “Master of Puppets”)? Check. A montage that shows all of the cool kills? Check. Yup, this is a “Zombieland” movie all right, and we’re only into the opening credits.

As stated in last week’s review of the second “Maleficent” movie, a sequel should continue the story and expand upon the world created by the original. The fresh innovation in “Zombieland: Double Tap” is that there are different types of zombies: the stupid Homers, the smarter Hawkings, the sneakier Ninjas, and biggest and baddest of all, the T-800s. So now it’s not just a matter of picking up a gun and getting a head shot (or two—see movie’s subtitle). The group needs to identify who they are fighting and strategize accordingly.

“Zombieland: Double Tap” is also a bit philosophical. At least, as philosophical as a mainstream horror comedy about a zombie apocalypse can or should be. One of the new characters, Madison (Zoey Deutch), is a ditsy snowflake whose strategy is to hide rather than fight. Berkeley (Avan Jogia) is a guitar playing hippie pacifist. We’re so used to seeing men and women of action in zombie movie and television shows who shoot, slash, and stab their way through zombie hordes and save the day. But how would these non-violent and non-confrontational folks survive in such a brutal world? How would an entire community of them fare? How ticked off would Tallahassee be at the mere thought of their existence? These are questions worth asking, and the movie does its best to answer them while also keeping things entertaining and swiftly moving along. Buy it.

Also New This Week

The Addams Family

“The Addams Family” is an animated movie that can be seen as a prequel/reboot for the live action television show/early ‘90s movies. As it opens, we see Gomez (voice of Oscar Isaac) and Morticia (voice of Charlize Theron) get married…and then immediately get chased out of town by an angry mob with torches and pitchforks. It will be a sad day when the gear of choice for angry mobs in movies evolves beyond torches and pitchforks.

While making their way to a place so dark and drab that no one will follow them, i.e., New Jersey (the movie’s joke—not mine!), the newlywed couple pick up Lurch (voice of Conrad Vernon), who apparently escaped from an insane asylum, from off the side of the road. They then find sanctuary in their iconic new home—a spooky old mansion on a hill. With the help of Thing, an animated hand, Lurch finds the keys and chords to the classic theme of “The Addams Family” on a grand pipe organ. Let the finger snapping ensue.

Years later, my favorite family member Wednesday (voice of Chloë Grace Moretz) and her brother Pugsley (voice of Finn Wolfhard) are the children of the family. They’ve been raised away from the harsh treatment and judgment of the outside world. Wednesday is restless and curious about what it’s like beyond the mansion gates. Pugsley is worried about an upcoming ceremony in which he must display his proficiency with a sword and prove he is worthy to be an Addams.

“The Addams Family” hits its main theme right on the nose with a brand new town being built outside the mansion gates by a pushy developer with awesome hair named Margaux Needler (voice of Allison Janney). Her town is literally called Assimilation. As the lease holder on all of the property in the town, she demands conformity and blind loyalty. But here’s the interesting twist that makes me respect the screenplay by Matt Lieberman: It’s made clear that Gomez, Morticia, and the rest of the Addams family demand conformity too. Margaux’s daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher) rebels by dressing in black like Wednesday, and Wednesday rebels by dressing in pink like Parker. Neither one of their mothers are pleased with this behavior, and that says it all right there.

One of the joys of “The Addams Family” are the sight gags. They’re sprinkled throughout the movie and will at least illicit a chuckle. Some of them, like “dusting the house” gave me a good belly laugh. Another favorite was when Morticia calmed down the cranky evil spirit of the house by giving it some morning coffee. How do you give a spirit of a house coffee, you may ask? And you may also have an idea of how it’s done. Yup, it is what you’re probably thinking. Cute, clever, and funny—just like this movie. Buy it.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

The one thing that “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” has going for it is nostalgia. It’s fun to take a trip down memory lane with the movie and see all of the familiar faces from Kevin Smith’s first five movies (from “Clerks” to “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”), both in terms of seeing where the characters are now in their lives and seeing the actors who played them reprise their roles after so long. I am tempted to give a list and name some of them, but out of respect for Kevin Smith fans looking for a surprise, I will not divulge. Suffice it to say, there are some great cameos from those beloved movies of the 90s and early 2000s.

Unfortunately, nostalgia is the only thing that the “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” has going for it. The movie wants to be meta and self-aware, as this reboot movie makes fun of reboots. The premise is that director Kevin Smith, playing himself, is rebooting the “Bluntman and Chronic” movie from 2001—the movie that Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) tried to stop in the “Strike Back” movie. It’s a road movie, just like the 2001 entry, but unlike that movie, which was funny and satirical, “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot” is flat and abrasive. It’s the same old shtick as before, only meaner and with more guilty white liberal nonsense thrown into the mix, which is always a gag-inducing, eye-rolling downer. I think Jay and Silent Bob can still be relevant and funny, but this is not the way to go about it. I can only hope Smith finds his footing with these characters again by the time “Clerks III” goes into production. Stream it.

More New Releases: “Pain and Glory,” director Pedro Almodovar’s exploration of a movie director who reflects on the choices he's made in life as past and present come crashing down around him, starring Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz; “In Search of the Last Action Heroes,” documentary about the rise, fall, and rise again of the action genre, spanning he past 50 years of movies; “Black and Blue,” about a police officer on the run after witnessing corrupt officers murder a drug dealer, starring Frank Grillo, Naomie Harris, Reid Scott, Mike Colter, and Tyrese Gibson; and “Countdown,” about a young nurse who downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, and it tells her she has only three days to live, starring Anne Winters, Elizabeth Lail, Charlie McDermott, and Peter Facinelli.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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